Investigating American Exceptionalism
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Project Overview for Investigating American Exceptionalism
Americans are not only prone to think of the United States as an exceptional nation. According to an author, “in its national ideology, the U.S. A. does not simply exist. It only achieves. It has no collective identity except as the best, the greatest country, superior to all others and the acknowledged model for the work.”
- First, you are to investigate and report on one small, but significant, indicator of the United States’ achievement in comparison with Mexico. There are many quantifiable measures that relate to “quality of life” for people—anything from economic indexes (such as the Gross Domestic Product) to demographic ones (such as life expectancy). You will need to pick some measures permitting you to make comparisons with Mexico’s and Canada’s performance now, and with the United States’ own performance in the past, in the area of Immigration/Naturalization.
- Second, you are to use this measure, and the United States’ comparative rank associated with it, to construct an argument related to American exceptionalism and the American creed. As identified by Seymour Martin Lipset, the American creed (with which Americans are presumed to agree) asserts that liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire capitalism are the pre-eminent values of American society.
Your argument for Investigating American Exceptionalism in your research paper needs to make a connection between this creed and your statistical finding. Some questions you might consider in formulating your argument regarding American exceptionalism include:
- How does your chosen “quality of life” indicator suggest we measure up, according to this creed?
- What does your indicator suggest that we do well, or do poorly, in attempting to fulfill this creed?
- Have we gotten better, or worse, over time?
- Does looking at this measure highlight out any internal contradictions in the terms of the creed?
- Part of your argument must refer—in brief—to current debates that center on the statistical measure you have chosen.
- Evaluation of this project will be based on these factors:
- Choice of measure (relevant, with good data available)
- Formulation of argument (connected to themes of class; supported by evidence)
- Evidence (good-quality, reliable data, clearly presented & explained)
- Presentation (clear, easy to follow)
- Bibliography and citations (judiciously chosen and fairly summarized)
How to Organize a Paper on American Exceptionalism
Guidelines for Investigating American Exceptionalism Research Paper:
- Begin your paper by clarifying the subject you plan to research, along with the specific statistical measure you will be using for your comparison.
- List the countries you intend to reference as points of comparison with the United States (and why you’ve chosen them).
- Generally pick at least two other countries, but larger groups should look at more countries. In other words, the number of countries in your comparison—including the United States—should be equal to the number of students in your group. Too few means the comparison isn’t very interesting; too many means it’s hard to manipulate the data to make an effective presentation. It is possible, of course, for there to be international lists/rankings of dozens of countries, or more, that you would want to use, and that’s fine—but the major focus of your comparison will be on a limited number of countries.
- Your explanation of your country choices will start you toward providing the context for your presentation. Are these countries generally similar to the U.S., and if so, on what grounds? Size, wealth, location—all of these factors may have a bearing on your statistical measure, and you’ll need to think about what makes your eventual report most compelling.
- Formulate a historical comparison between the countries. For example, use a life expectancy comparison or a disease incidence/treatment comparison. For
example, it would be more instructive to see a pattern over time—probably over the past 20 to 30 years, likely in 10-year intervals—than just to look at one date. Is the U.S. position improving, worsening, or staying the same? (Sometimes, you will find that the statistics you want are not available for the exact same year in different countries, so some accommodation will have to be made anyway.)
- Organize your references and resources in a clear manner to begin the writing phase.